Grading & Excavation Contractor

Thirst For First By Inga Rundquist

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This article first appeared in Hitachi’s BREAKOUT magazine, Winter 2018 issue.

There’s something special about the brand-new Hitachi ZX345USLC-6 on the construction site in the Maple Ridge neighborhood of Vancouver, B.C. – in June it became the very first model of its kind to be delivered on North American soil.

What makes this even more intriguing is that the ZX345USLC-6, which is owned by Marlon Hall and Chris Veenstra of Metric Civil Contractors, isn’t the only “first” in their fleet. The two owners also took delivery of the very first ZX245USLC-5 to land in North America a few years earlier.

The two “first” machines weren’t coincidental, but rather the deliberate effort of a self-described machine enthusiast.

“Owning construction equipment and purchasing the equipment is like being a kid in a candy store, only it’s really expensive candy,” Hall laughed.  “When we saw the ZX345USLC-6 preview machine at CONEXPO last year we made a conscious decision that we were going to get one as soon as it was available. Knowing the model was coming, we were able to look at some of our jobs where the footprint of the ZX350 or ZX290 was too big and really plan ahead. When we heard it was available, I immediately called our dealer and ordered it on the spot.”

With persistence, impeccable timing and some quick work by their dealer, Richard Batten of Wajax Equipment, helped make Hall and Veenstra’s dream a reality.

The right equipment

Hall’s passion for equipment goes beyond his thirst for being the first to receive new Hitachi models – walk onto one of his job sites and you can immediately tell the fleet is owned by someone who has had extensive operating experience. The machines are clean. Everything has its place. And beyond the sounds of buckets digging and trucks running, there is not a clang to be heard.

“I grew up in a logging family, so I was always around equipment,” Hall said. “Having been an operator for many years, I know what makes a good operator and how important it is to take care of the machines. It’s a top priority for us to keep the equipment in the best shape we can for our operators – our people are our biggest assets, so we want to keep them happy, comfortable, and up and running with nice equipment.”

Although Hall’s partner, Veenstra, doesn’t quite share Hall’s obsession with construction equipment, he recognizes the importance of choosing the right machine for the job.

“I’m passionate about what we do and how we do it, and having the right equipment for the right job definitely allows us to complete the projects we’re working on and that’s what I’m passionate about – doing good work,” he said.

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From the ground up

Veenstra and Hall were high school friends and had always talked about starting their own construction company. They took their own professional paths in the construction field – Veenstra as an engineer and project manager and Hall as a field superintendent – and eventually decided to make the leap and form Metric Civil Contractors in 2012.

The two connected with Wajax Equipment, who helped them lease their first Hitachi excavator, and the duo hasn’t looked back since. Metric now has a fleet of eight Hitachi excavators and 30 employees. Recently, the company was designated by the British Columbia Construction Safety Alliance as a Certificate of Recognition (COR™) company. The designation is a prestigious safety standard that took more than three years to achieve and has set them apart from others in the marketplace.

“Getting COR certified was really important to us because of our people,” Hall said. “Our people are our biggest assets and they’ve got to go home safe. We want everyone to work safely and enjoy being at work.”

Hitachi has been part of Metric’s growth from the very beginning – and today all eight machines in their fleet are Hitachi excavators, ranging in size from a ZX50U-5 to the new ZX345USLC-6.

“Since I was an operator in the past, I spent a lot of time running all kinds of different equipment and Hitachi was always one piece of equipment that I enjoyed operating,” Hall said. “It’s great equipment. It doesn’t fail us.”

The new ZX345USLC-6 is no exception.

“When we saw the 345 at CONEXPO, we could definitely see the benefits of having a machine that size with the reduced-tail-swing radius,” Veenstra said. “It’s especially useful for road work or underground utility projects – the counterweight is essentially gone but you still have the power and the reach to be able to perform work that other reduced-tail-swing machines aren’t able to do currently.”

For Hall, the full-size cab and the hydraulics of the ZX345USLC-6 were also big selling factors.

“You get a guy who is six feet or more then you really need a big cab for them to be comfortable,” he said. “The new TRIAS II pump system also really makes a difference in operating and loading and maneuvering the machine.”

With Metric’s continued growth, Hall and Veenstra don’t anticipate it will be long before it will be time to add another Hitachi to their fleet. Whether it will be another “first” machine will remain to be seen.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Veenstra smiled.

Metric Civil Contractors Ltd. is serviced by Wajax Equipment, Vancouver, B.C. GX_bug_web

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